Title: It's Time To Start That "Swipe" File
Author: David B. Silva
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It's Time To Start That "Swipe" File
by David B. Silva
Just as great fiction is an art, so is great copywriting. Beneath
the art, however, there's a foundation of basic knowledge and
skills. The craft that goes into your writing.
Craft comes first. Art follows.
You learn the craft of writing by educating yourself, by the
actual process of writing (the doing), and by reading incessantly.
Every successful writer will tell you that reading has been and
still is the cornerstone of developing his craft.
Reading presents you with a written illustration of what works
and what doesn't, of what you like as a writer and what you don't.
It helps you understand the possibilities, and offers practical
instruction of how the rules of your craft are used.
Most writers, when they start out, mimic their favorite authors.
I have a friend who became incredibly adept at writing like
Stephen King. For several years, everything I wrote had a Ray
Eventually, we developed our own styles, which were richer for
having first gone through this mimic stage.
The point is this: part of any effective learning process is to
mimic what has been successful before you.
This is true of copywriting, too. And it's the reason you need
to start a "swipe" file if you want to become a successful
What is a "swipe" file? It's exactly what it sounds like ...a
file of great copywriting examples that you've collected, studied,
and can access whenever you're in need of a little inspiration.
These are not examples meant to be plagiarized. You aren't
copying work here; you're adapting it to your own copywriting
For example ... suppose you're writing a sales letter for an
Internet site that sells an expensive men's wristwatch and you're
in need of a great headline. You search through your "swipe" file
and find a sales letter for The Oxford Club (actually taken from
my own "swipe" file) with the headline: A Man's Right To Wealth.
How To Master Every Situation And Prosper On A Grand Scale.
You toy around with it and come up with this: A Man's Right To
Elegance. How To Impress In Every Situation With A Watch That
Does Far More Than Keep Accurate Time.
See how a good "swipe" file can help?
You can use it to adapt opening sentences. Or the layout of a
sales letter. Or the guarantee you or your client offers. Even
the pace or the emotional "tug" of a piece.
By using your "swipe" file, your creative juices are instantly
flowing. There's no blank page. You already have something to
work with. And as any good writer will tell you, it's easier to
edit than it is to write.
So where do you get the material for your "swipe" file?
The quickest and easiest source is the Internet. Start checking
out website sales letters. Print them out. Good or bad (even the
bad ones can inspire your work). Study them. And keep them close
by in a handy file.
The other great source is from mailing lists. If you're already
on a few lists, then start filing those pitches away when they
arrive instead of tossing them out. If you're not on a list, try
purchasing a product or asking for a catalog. It won't be long
before you're on a number of lists and your "swipe" file is
Two good places to get started are: Publisher's Clearing House,
101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050; and
Nightingale-Conant, 7300 N. Leigh Avenue, Chicago, IL 60648.
Try them both. Try any others that come to mind, as well. Just
start building your "swipe" today!
Copyright © 2005 David B. Silva
About David: David B. Silva has written eight novels. His most
recent, All The Lonely People, is published by Delirium Press.
He's awaiting the release of The Hawke Legacy, a novel of epic
horror, from Subterranean Press. His short fiction has appeared
in The Year's Best Horror, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and
The Best American Mystery Stories. In 1991, he won a Bram Stoker
Award for his short story, The Calling. Visit his site,
List of articles by David Silva: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
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